Barnum Elementary honored as Minnesota School of ExcellenceBarnum Elementary School was one of seven schools validated as a 2012-2013 Minnesota School of Excellence last week.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Barnum Elementary School was one of seven schools validated as a 2012-2013 Minnesota School of Excellence last week.
The Minnesota School of Excellence Program promotes excellence through a rigorous evaluation process that showcases dynamic schools of the 21st century. Established by the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association (MESPA), the program is recognized by the Minnesota Department of Education, as well as the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and was nominated for the 2011 Brock International Prize in Education – which identifies “the best ideas on education in the world…to expose them to our educators, teachers, administrators, and politicians.”
MESPA endorses schools whose principal, staff, students and community – working as a team – demonstrate the desire to strengthen education by successfully undertaking the research-based Minnesota School of Excellence school improvement process. This includes a systematic school-wide self-study, development of a school improvement plan, and implementation of that plan. The entire Minnesota School of Excellence Program is aligned with six national standards: Learning Centered, Diverse Communities, 21st Century Learners, Quality Instruction, Knowledge and Data, and Community Engagement.
“These schools represent a vanguard in Minnesota education,” said P. Fred Storti, MESPA executive director. “The quality of our school communities can far too easily be misrepresented by single-purposed high stakes tests. The Minnesota School of Excellence program clearly connects the depth and breadth of the education process to student learning.”
While Principal Tom Cawcutt and his staff were thrilled with the news, Cawcutt said the process of review and evaluation that led to the award was the most valuable thing for the K-6 school, which boasts its largest ever enrollment this fall, at 450 students.
“The validation offered by the award is wonderful,” he said. “But looking at what we do well and what needs improvement is the most valuable piece of the School of Excellence process.”
It is a process that began last October, when Cawcutt notified the Minnesota School of Excellence committee that the school intended to apply. Throughout the school year, staff, community members and students filled out surveys, compiled data, collected feedback and reflected on the education offered students at Barnum Elementary School.
According to the Minnesota School of Excellence Program, Barnum Elementary’s excellence in education begins with their small class sizes, which range in size from 15-23 students, which provides for a supportive teacher-student ratio and allows for individual support for all learning styles and abilities.
A leader in the area of technology, Barnum Elementary continually ensures faculty and students have access to up-to-date resources. Each classroom has a Smartboard, student computers, and is wired for WiFi access. In addition, starting in the fall of 2012, each elementary student will have an iPad as part of a 1:1 iPad initiative for elementary students.
Cawcutt also pointed out that the school strives to provide “experiences that will broaden the framework for child development beyond academics.”
Some examples of these experiences include All Arts Day and International/World’s Fair. All Arts Day gives students the opportunity to work with local artists to create projects and learn more about the arts. At the annual Barnum Elementary World’s Fair, grade 6 students learn and celebrate different cultures and beliefs through presentations, music and food.
The school hosts parent teacher conferences twice yearly and families have a 98 percent attendance and participation rate. In return, Barnum faculty and staff routinely attend school board meetings to promote the needs of their students and families. Cawcutt said the school board has listened to the needs of the school community and has initiated a number of resources, including a Wellness Committee, which promotes healthy choices within healthy lives, financial support of Early Childhood Family Education to expand family options, and maintaining small class sizes within all grades at Barnum Elementary.
“A quality education is more than test scores,” Cawcutt said, noting that the school needs to improve its MCA math scores. “I feel the education students receive at this school is second to none. That’s a testament to the teachers and the community.”
Other schools recognized as 2012-2013 Minnesota Schools of Excellence are Central Montessori Elementary School in Forest Lake; Robert J. Elkington Middle School in Grand Rapids; J.A. Hughes Elementary School in Red Lake Falls; Kennedy Elementary School in Mankato; Nett Lake Elementary School in Nett Lake; and Westwood Elementary School in Bloomington.